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Chamber and committees

Question ref. S5W-31806

Date lodged: 14 September 2020

Question

To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide a breakdown of what actions ministers have taken under section 9 of the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 regarding opportunities to advance equality and non-discrimination when exercising their functions under the Act.

Current status: Answered by Michael Russell on 24 September 2020


Answer

Assessment of the equality, human rights and children’s rights impacts continues to be a central aspect of our approach to review and reporting on the Coronavirus Acts; and in developing our two-monthly reports, we have sought to examine these impacts.

The equality duty, part of the Equality Act 2010, seeks to advance equality and we have sought to do this through provisions contained in the legislation, or by support and guidance available. Additionally, where we have identified any particular impacts of the legislation, we have sought to address these quickly and effectively.

For example, during the coronavirus outbreak, we have maintained our priority that victims of domestic abuse and gender based violence get the support they need during these challenging times and are kept safe from harm. Section 15A of the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 and section 13 of the Coronavirus (Scotland) (No.2) Act 2020 require Scottish Ministers to take account of any information about the nature and number of incidents of domestic abuse which is given to them or published by the Scottish Police Authority, or the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Scotland. Scottish Ministers are also required to explain how the information was taken account of.

In relation to housing, the provisions under section 2 and schedule 1 of the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 which increase the notice period across all eviction grounds in the private and social rented sector, with limited specific exceptions, provide renters with additional protection from eviction. These provisions are complemented by Section 2 and schedule 1, Part 2 of the Coronavirus (Scotland) (No.2) Act 2020, which relate to pre-action requirements for order for possession or eviction order on ground of rent arrears. The Scottish Government considers that these provisions continue to have a positive impact across those with protected characteristics and continue to prevent all renters across all equality groups from being evicted during the current crisis. This includes women who are more likely to have caring responsibilities and therefore be impacted more significantly – socially and financially - by the consequences of the outbreak.

As a further example, Section 2 and schedule 1, part 1 of the second Scottish Act aims to ensure that an appropriate notice to leave period exists for students residing in halls of residence and Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSA). During this time of great uncertainty and financial hardship for many, these provisions ensure appropriate notice to leave periods exist for students seeking to end their tenancy early for a reason relating to coronavirus . The Scottish Government considers that the temporary extension of these provisions is likely to positively impact across those with protected characteristics, as the legislative measures will protect them from the financial impact of being held liable to pay for accommodation they are not able to use.

Further examples and more information on the equality impact of the measures contained within the Coronavirus Acts is contained within the reports submitted by the Scottish Government to the Scottish Parliament every 2 months, and the Statement of Reasons published alongside the regulations laid by the Scottish Government last month which seek to extend the Scottish Coronavirus Acts to 31 March 2021.